Finding love on the Internet (when you are not looking for it)

A Touch of PassionI don’t want to mention my age, but let’s just say I have teenage children and I wasn’t a child bride. In general, getting older is great, you gain more confidence as you worry less what other people think. I’ve even found I’m more attractive to a lot of guys. But I’ve discovered that women of a certain age attract one group that I could do without.

I’m on various social media websites. In theory, this is so I can tell people how wonderful the next book is going to be—and yes, A Touch of Passion will blow you away. In reality, it’s because I love to talk. Most of the people I meet are lovely, warm and genuine. But there are exceptions.

My profile always says I’m married and I’m just there to make friends. It’s quite clear that I’m not in the market for a husband. The odd, “Hey sexy, you looking for a bit of discreet fun?” is not a shock. What is though, is the number of men who want to marry me.

I’m beginning to recognize a pattern. It’s usually someone from a long way away, like Florida or Canada or Australia. The photographs are always of a man in a suit, often standing behind a podium at a business conference. There will be a few of those, and possibly a couple of him doing some sort of expensive sport, typically boating, but occasionally horse riding or skiing. There might be one of him inside a Limo.

He will open by saying my beauty and my smile have blown him away. He’ll also call me “Dear” or “Pretty”, both of which are guaranteed to piss me off. Almost as soon as I answer, there will be comments about how warm and caring I am.

Pretty soon, I’ll hear his story, how he is a hard-working man with his own company. His wife got cancer but died in an auto accident (he will say an auto accident even if he lives in England), and he is looking after his young daughter on his own. He is looking for a new relationship, and believes distance is no obstacle to true love.

In spite of the fact that the photos are all of a very white, very wealthy looking man who claims an advanced degree, his English will be a little dodgy. “I am looking forward to read from you.”

In no time at all, he’ll be looking for my e-mail, Skype and Facebook details so we can continue to chat in private. He might want my address too, so he can send me a nice present. And I’ll hear about how much he loves me and how he wants to take this relationship further.

And this is in spite of frequent reminders from me that I am married with children and have no interest in him.

It’s pretty obvious this is a scam. I suspect it’s a two-pronged one. Collect as much personal information as possible and use it for identity theft. And if I really was looking for a long term romantic relationship, I have no doubt I’d be paying out money to help him deal with the relocation costs.

So I’ve learned a few basic precautions.

Don’t give your Facebook details to anyone you don’t know personally. There is one hell of a lot of information about you up on Facebook. Don’t give your email address or Skype address out, for the same reason.

If you do want to chat to someone you’ve met on a website, create a new e-mail address in your online name, which should not be anything along the line of “MARYJONES1975@gmail.com”

Lie about your age on websites. That will confuse a stalker. 99 is a really good age! Use different nickname on different sites, so that a quick google doesn’t link all your online activity.

Be careful of pictures. Not only can they identify you, but the photo itself can often contain information about when and where it was taken. There are add-ons for Mozilla Firefox and for Google Chrome that you can use to see if your photo has any such information in it which would help a scammer identify you.

Most of all, use your common sense. If someone you’ve just met an hour ago on the internet is claiming to be in love with you, be suspicious. Stay on the website you met him on, don’t go to a different one. Ask questions and pay attention. And remember, if he seems too good to be true, he probably is.

Eileen